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Jay-Z is more metal than Slayer

There are very few principles of metal that are embodied consistently across all of its subcultures — one is a no-compromise attitude and another is self-respect.  These tenets have garnered nearly universal acclaim from all corners of the metal community for bands like Metallica (well, before the 90’s), Pantera, Death, and only a few others.

But when the Grammy Awards come around every year, nowadays all notions of being “metal” are thrown out the door.

The Grammys and the metal community always have had a contentious relationship, beginning with the infamous Jethro Tull/Metallica incident in 1989 when the Grammys featured their first-ever hard rock/metal award.  Since then, most metalheads haven’t taken the awards too seriously.  Today’s blogosphere continues to cite out-of-touch nominations and superficial attention toward heavy music as examples of the Grammys’ irrelevance to metal.

Also in 1989, the Grammys featured their first-ever hip-hop/rap categories.  However, the hip-hop awards were relegated to the non-televised portion of the ceremony, which didn’t sit too well with rap artists.  Feeling disrespected with their apparent “back of the bus” status, most of the hip-hop nominees boycotted the ceremony for the next few years until they were given prime-time recognition by the Recording Academy.  In 1991, label head Russell Simmons (president of Def Jam Records, the same label that released Reign in Blood five years earlier) orchestrated a Grammy boycott, and hip-hop heavyweights like Public Enemy rallied in solidarity.

There are very few, if any, of our heroes in metal who would dare do something like that.

For much of the past decade, the Recording Academy similarly has demoted the hard rock and metal (which they’ve lumped back into a single category) to the non-televised portion of the Grammys.  Nevertheless, much of metal’s old guard swallow their pride and continue to show up, despite their second-class status at the awards.

Tom Araya of Slayer at last year’s non-televised Grammys ceremony.
Slayer lost the ‘Best Metal Performance’ award to Iron Maiden — who did not attend.

Which brings me to the titular subject of this blogpost — Jay-Z.

In 1999, Jay boycotted the Grammys in his first year as a nominee because the Recording Academy yet again decided not to televise its hip-hop categories.  In 2002, he boycotted the Grammys again due to the awards featuring only one televised hip-hop category.  Arguably the biggest artist in rap at the time (and arguably the biggest artist in music today), Jay-Z’s refusal to attend was aimed at pressuring the Grammys to give hip-hop its proper shine.

Despite being nominated for three awards both years, Jay-Z was looking out for his entire art form. Simply put: he was pissed that the Grammys weren’t nominating quality artists for the hip-hop categories. Even if commercial appeal takes some precedence over talent at the Grammys (word to Sinead O’Connor’s boycott), Jay pointed out that fellow rapper DMX released two #1 albums in 1998 — the first musician ever to have his first two albums debut at #1 in a year — but was snubbed for any Grammy nomination until four years later.

“I didn’t think they gave the rightful respect to hip-hop.

It started when they didn’t nominate DMX [in 1999].  DMX had an incredible album, but didn’t get a nomination.  I was like, ‘Nah, that’s crazy.’ ”

So, why can’t metal musicians stick up for each other like that?

Wouldn’t it have been awesome to see big-name hard rock/metal musicians skip the Grammys in 2010 to protest Mastodon’s Crack the Skye nomination snub?  Sure, the metal press scoffs plenty at awful Grammy nominations and omissions — but what if the top brass of hard rock/metal came together and demanded that the Grammys properly acknowledge their art form, like hip-hop did over a decade ago?

Of course, metal doesn’t need the Grammys or mainstream attention to survive.  But if metal artists now are yearning for the “good ol’ days” when the masses flocked to their shows and bought up their music, they should think about how they allow themselves to be viewed (and not viewed) in the public eye.

Artists not sticking up for their art. Ain’t that a bitch!

  • Whereyouatnow

    Fuck metal. It’s ossified into a sub-culture characterized b consumption patterns, which means it can be commodified to the lowest common denominator. Metal is fucking dead and irrelevant. And hip hop is on life support. Nothing is true anymore.

  • Smarky: ChildOfChaos

    Or Maybe Jay-Z didn’t attend because all he cares about is self promotion and dollar, which he gets none of if it aren’t televised, where as the metal heads are just happy there music is being recognised and don’t care about that shit so they actually show up. How about that? Eh?

  • BroadwayJoeFYVM

    Great article. But I doubt that NARAS would take much notice of a metal boycott of the Grammy, other than to use it as an excuse to drop the genre from the awards altogether. Which wouldn’t bother me much at all. The Golden Gods are by far a better judge of metal than the Grammys, not to mention the old farts that vote for the awards in the first place.

    • The Golden Gods are better, yes, but not by much. The Golden Gods suffer from the same problem as the Grammys, only with the paradigm reversed. The Golden Gods are the home ground of the 16 and under crowd, who have just gotten into metal and thus we have the same bands getting nominated over and over again, merely with a different set of bands. The Golden Gods are user-based in terms of voting, from a very specific demographic and as a result you can explain why bands such as A7X or Five Finger Death Punch or whatever – bands who are universally reviled in more adult metal fandom at large – keep cleaning up there. It’s no better than the Big Four and Iron Maiden receiving Grammy nominations by default because they are the only bands the committee know. It is equally skewed and misrepresentative of the genre. That said, most metalheads don’t vote in the Golden Gods past a certain age, because at some point you stop caring about stupid awards like this and the Grammies, or at least I like to think so. No one in my circle of acquaintances could give a toss about any awards if they like a band, least of all me. At some point you (hopefully) grow out of needing to “validate” your taste in music by saying “They won Best Shredders” or whatever. Like what you like and fuck what everyone else thinks. Value in vote-based awards is only something teenyboppers can perceive. Thus the Golden Gods awards only go to teenybopper bands. And that’s fine. Let the kids have their fun! It has no effect on the rest of us anyway. As for the Grammies; Please, just let it go already. Why should we be seeking “approval” from the very thing we’re supposed to be against? Isn’t metal about rebellion and doing what you want, freely and honestly? Why should we then care what a bunch of major label dinosaurs in suits think of us?!